The immense risk of vaccine hesitancy to human life has been understood for some time. Organized resistance to vaccines has existed since smallpox, culminating in the WHO naming vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health.
But in 2020, vaccine hesitancy took on a new form. A pandemic has meant that far more people are talking about vaccines than ever before. At the same time, we are seeing the global, instant connectivity of social media reconfiguring how people understand, influence and identify in relation to beliefs about vaccination.
Today, we face a crossroads. Increasing rates of vaccine skepticism jeopardize the effectiveness of a potential Covid-19 vaccine. More worrying still, trust in vaccines more broadly is at stake, as is faith in the wider institutions connected to science and medicine.
First Draft is responding to this new threat with a range of resources for reporters, researchers, policymakers and communication specialists.
We have published in-depth analyses of case studies in Pakistan and the Philippines; a review of existing research into vaccine misinformation and how it applies to today’s information ecosystem; and a major piece of research into the narratives surrounding vaccines during the summer of 2020. Throughout 2020 we have also been monitoring misinformation surrounding vaccines and health more broadly for a range of organisations, including the UN and Unicef.
And, in November 2020, we announced a landmark training scheme for WHO ‘infodemiologists’ in 83 counties to support their response to health misinformation.
In 2021 we will be faced with unprecedented and unpredictable challenges for the roll out of the many Covid-19 vaccines. The stakes are high.
Critical to a successful roll-out is understanding how mis- and disinformation is traveling, who stands to gain from it, how their tactics are evolving, and the effects on communities. All threaten to undermine the success of a vaccine as a part of a wider response to tackle this deadly pandemic.
We will continue to share analysis, monitoring, thought leadership and training. If you would like to speak to us about support with understanding vaccine and health misinformation, talk to us at [email protected]